Sigma Tau Gamma works for Special Olympics

March 3, 2023

For the past 4 years Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity of Michigan Tech has been working as Hill Jockeys at the Snowmobile Hillclimbs in South Range.  A Hill Jockey is a person that helps a Hillclimber get the snowmobile un-stuck.  They also keep the Snowmobile from going down the hill without the driver.

The brothers of Sigma Tau Gamma are located in different places on the side of Whealkate Bluff.  They work in groups of 2 to 3.  Every Hillclimb close to 100 Snowmobiles are lifted up and turned around.

Here the Sigma Tau Gamma Hill Jockeys are digging, then lifting the snowmobile out of 3 feet of snow.

“Although it was a lot of fun watching these machines go up this big hill, it can be a lot of work.  Depending upon where you are located on the hill, “explained Andrew Phelps, Sigma Tau Gamma Brother.  “I was located on the lower side of the hill.  This is where there are the hardest gates and most riders get stuck and fail.”

Since Sigma Tau Gamma began as the Hill Jockeys for the Mid America Snow & Terrain Expert Racers (MASTERS) Hillclimbs, the Fraternity has never asked for any financial support from the Circuit or the Drivers. 

They did it because they love it!

“The Hillclimb is probably one of my favorite service events I have done.  You get to watch these extremely cool snowmobiles, some with professional drivers driving them.  Competing against others to climb this massive hill,” commented Phelps.

It was at the last Mid America Championship Hillclimb that the MASTERS Circuit and drivers decided to donate money to the Fraternity.  “No strings attached, they can use the money in any way they want.  From having a social get together to house improvement, whatever they want,” stated MASTERS Officials.

Here is why this Michigan Tech Fraternity is so special at Michigan Tech and in the Copper Country. They decided to turn the $350 given to them to give to the Copper Country Special Olympics.

Sigma Tau Gamma of MTU helps officiate and run the Children’s Class at the Hillclimbs.

“The Special Olympics is Sigma Tau Gamma’s national philanthropy.  Every chapter has some kind of event they do annually dedicated to raise (money) for Special Olympics,” explained Brad Burnish of Sigma Tau Gamma of Michigan Tech.  He goes on to say, “On Friday of Winter Carnival we run from the Winter Carnival Building all the way back to 1020 College Avenue in our underwear.”

The way they raise money in what is called the ‘Grundy Run,’ is people donate money and are allowed to write whatever they want on the Sigma Tau Gamma Brothers.

“With the support of the MASTERS and the drivers as Hill Jockeys, we will be just shy of our $5000 goal,” Burnish stated.

For the hillclimbs the hill jockeys are fully clothed, but the work they do lifting 400-500 pound snowmobiles out of deep snow is a challenging task.  “As a (Hill) Jockey we have to get the snowmobiles unstuck and help in any way we can.  Especially when the snowmobile is stuck in a 3 foot hole and buried down to the dirt.  It’s a lot of work, it is definitely a lot of fun,” concluded Phelps.

“I don’t know what we would do without them.  I sure have used them often and can’t thank the Sig Tau’s enough,” commented one hillclimber who prefers to remain anonymous.  “I still can’t believe they are not using it for a party, but to just give the money to Special Olympics.  That’s impressive!”

It is when a Hillclimber loses control at the top of Whealkate Bluff, the Sigma Tau Gamma Hill Jockeys prevents the snowmobile from going all the way down the hill, which could do a lot of damage to a $18,000 snowmobile.

The MASTERS had an owner of one Hillclimb team that donated $100.  He did this on the basis he did not want his name or business mentioned. 

MASTERS Official told the Gazette, “All too often Fraternities get a bad rap.  Parents with son’s in College need to know all the work Fraternities, like the Michigan Tech Chapter of Sigma Tau Gamma, does.  They also invoke a spirit of helping others in the community, while building leadership skills, and how to get snowmobiles safely down Whealkate Bluff!”

The Fraternity also sponsors the MASTERS Children’s class at the Hillclimbs.

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